News / Health

Researchers Discover the Biological Mechanism of Malaria Infection

Jessica Berman
Researchers say they have discovered how the malaria parasite gains a foothold inside the human body, causing the life-threatening illness.  The finding could lead to a new treatment for malaria - using a drug that’s already in clinical trials for use against another condition.

After taking a blood meal, experts say the malaria-infected female Anopheles mosquito injects about 1,000 parasites into the bloodstream.
 
The microorganisms quickly reproduce after each one enters a red blood cell, according Doron Greenbaum, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Each parasite divides from one into say 24 to 32 parasites in 48 hours.  So you can imagine that an initial thousand parasites can grow very fast,” Greenbaum said.

Greenbaum says he and his colleagues discovered that inside the red blood cells, the parasites utilize a series of proteins to reproduce. After sapping the cells of their nutrient machinery, the new-born parasites burst through the cell walls and back into the blood stream, where they infect new blood cells, producing millions more offspring.  After a one- to two-week incubation period, the parasitic infection causes the often fatal symptoms associated with malaria, including very high fevers, chills and sweats.

The discovery of this protein pathway inside the red cell could lead to the use of a new oral medication -- called sotrastaurin -- to treat the deadly infection. The malaria pathogen targets a particular enzyme called PKC, which weakens the the protein chain, dismantling the cells and causing them to collapse. But sotrastaurin blocks P. falciparum's interaction with PKC.

Without that interaction, Greenbaum says, the parasites can’t reproduce.

“They are sort of trapped inside the host cell and if they can’t get out, they can’t continue their lifecycle and within a couple of hours, they start to die,” Greenbaum said.

Researchers led by Greenbaum tested the experimental drug, now in clinical trials to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients, and the compound dramatically reduced the number of P. falciparum malaria parasites in infected laboratory mice.
 
Because sotrastaurin targets human cellular proteins, Greenbaum says P. falciparum can’t develop resistance to the drug which has made quinine and artemisinin drugs to treat malaria less effective in recent years.

An article by Doron Greenbaum and colleagues at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland describing how the malaria parasite reproduces itself is published in the journal Cell, Host and Microbe.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.

All About America

AppleAndroid